The atrium of the Commerce Center building in the East Bank neighborhood in South Bend. The space will soon become seating for up to five different restaurants in the building. Staff photo by Robert Franklin
The atrium of the Commerce Center building in the East Bank neighborhood in South Bend. The space will soon become seating for up to five different restaurants in the building. Staff photo by Robert Franklin
For years, prospective restaurateurs have called South Bend developer Dave Matthews asking for help in opening their own businesses. But when Matthews would question them on the logistics behind the business plans, they didn’t know where to begin.

That got Matthews thinking that maybe there was an opportunity to provide a steppingstone for the entrepreneurs. As a result, he’s taken the atrium of both the Commerce Center and Emporium building in the East Bank neighborhood near downtown South Bend and created what he calls a restaurant incubator.

“We want to build up South Bend, so we take somebody who has no experience, no financial resources and get them skilled in a business management environment that is not so overwhelming that it crushes them,” Matthews said. “Our goal is to create a feeder so those who have figured it out and done well, they can grow a business and level up and get a place hopefully with us or some place downtown and have a full-service restaurant.”

The model is similar to other pop-up concepts in which small business owners temporarily fill existing space to try out business models without being tied down with large financial investments. But what is different in this case, Matthews says, is there won’t be a fixed rental fee. Instead, the six business owners that fill the spaces only have to worry about the cost of utilities and food and the volume of their sales.
Copyright © 2019, South Bend Tribune